Early Morning Open Thread

(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)

The Supreme Court’s review of the Affordable Care Act is such a hot ticket, according to the NYTimes, people have been waiting in line since Friday. The lawyers involved present themselves as having “trained for a three-day marathon“:

The justices have broken the case into four discrete issues, scheduling a separate session for each, for a total of six hours, the most in one case in more than 40 years. Mr. Clement, like his principal adversary, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., will be arguing three times.
Walter Dellinger, who was acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said he was worried about “the enormous endurance challenge this will be for Verrilli and Clement.” Mr. Dellinger, who has argued more than 20 cases in the Supreme Court, said making even a single 30-minute presentation is draining…
The central issue in the case, to be argued for two hours on Tuesday, is whether the individual mandate is constitutional.
But first, on Monday, the justices will hear 90 minutes of arguments from three lawyers about whether they should be hearing the case at all….
For Wednesday, the court has scheduled a double feature. In the morning, the justices will hear 90 minutes of arguments about what should happen if they strike down the mandate. The federal appeals court in Atlanta, whose decision is under review, ruled that it was possible to remove just the mandate and leave the balance of the law intact.
On Wednesday afternoon, the two main lawyers, Mr. Verrilli and Mr. Clement, will return for a one-hour encore, this time to argue over whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in expanding the eligibility and coverage thresholds that states must adopt to remain eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care to poor and disabled people…

But — and I assume this is good news for the Obama Administration — the major insurance companies are already preparing for the ongoing implementation of the ACA:

… It’s not that health insurers want to bet big that the court will uphold the Affordable Care Act. It’s that they can’t afford not to. It will take at least several months and lots of resources for insurers to prepare to implement key elements of the law, which includes a controversial requirement that most Americans have health insurance by 2014.
WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second-largest health insurer with 34 million members, has said it will spend $100 million this year on technology upgrades to meet the law’s requirements. Aetna Inc., third-largest U.S. health insurer with more than 18 million members, says it expects to spend $50 million this year in part to upgrade software and computers.
Even smaller insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a private company with 4 million members, are spending big. This year, the company, which employs 7,000 people, plans to add about 100 employees and spend nearly $20 million.
The law calls for big changes in the number of people receiving coverage, what must be covered and who pays for it, so insurers that don’t prepare until after the court’s ruling, expected in late June, will run short on time, said Kirk Roy, vice president of national health reform with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
“Waiting is too big a business risk for any insurer,” said Roy, who was promoted to his current job shortly after the overhaul became law in 2010…

Looks like the ACA is already serving as a pretty fair jobs program, while Ryan’s (Pantry) Raiders in the GOP jiggit around juggling imaginary numbers for the year 2024…

Apart from keeping an eye on Justice Roberts, what’s on the agenda for the start of the week?

52 replies
  1. 1
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    Looks like the ACA is already serving as a pretty fair jobs program, while Ryan’s (Pantry) Raiders in the GOP jiggit around juggling imaginary numbers for the year 2024…

    Are you sure you meant “pantry” there? ‘Cuz historically, and especially lately, the GOP has been pretty damned interested in what’s going on in panties.

  2. 2
    PeakVT says:

    I’m catching up on my science news feeds right now. James Cameron made it to the bottom of the Challenger Deep and came back alive some time yesterday. On Friday, construction began on the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, which was captured in the most boring video I’ve ever seen of something being blow up. It’s the first of three new 25m+ super-telescopes to be started, and likely the first to be finished (the others are the TMT in Hawaii and the E-ELT in Chile).

  3. 3
    danielx says:

    Is it coincidence that Paul Ryan and the hopefully-soon-to-be-former governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker have the same dead eyes? I think not…

  4. 4
    Schlemizel says:

    Since the ACA will make money for the big insurance companies the corporate wing of the USSC will side with the law, its safe.

    The New Adventures of Queen Victoria is a comic strip carried by gocomics. Funny and original it is rarely if ever political which makes this strip surprising:

    Its the water over there in Wisconsin, it makes guys like Scott, Paul, Joe McCarthy, Ed Gein and Jeff Dahmer

  5. 5
  6. 6
    R-Jud says:

    @PeakVT: Cameron’s trench dive was pretty fascinating to read about. I think I like him better as an explorer than as a filmmaker (I enjoyed “The Abyss”, though). It’s amazing that we’ve sent 12 guys to the moon but only three have made this trip to the bottom of the sea.

    I’m curious about the little watch cap he’s wearing in the photos: is it some kind of law that all aquatic explorers have to have one handy?

  7. 7
    01jack says:

    Oops! Just got stuck in the mobile version of the site. Like old times!

  8. 8
    amk says:

    Japanese shut down 53rd out of 54 nuke stations with lot of implications like increased oil import, blackouts, decreased industrial output, shifting production out if Japan etc.

  9. 9
    PeakVT says:

    @R-Jud: In Cameron’s case, at least, it was probably necessary because it’s damn cold down there – something like 34 or 35 F.

  10. 10
    bob h says:

    Does Roberts really want to turn the Supreme Court into the judicial arm of the Republican Party? The outrageousness of the prospect gives it some plausibility in my mind.

  11. 11
    MikeJ says:

    @amk: One little unrequested fission surplus and people start complaining about caesium in their Wheaties.

  12. 12
    WereBear says:

    @R-Jud: I’m curious about the little watch cap he’s wearing in the photos: is it some kind of law that all aquatic explorers have to have one handy?

    It is; but only because it’s dang cold down there. And most of heat loss is from the head: those caps make a big difference.

  13. 13
    c u n d gulag says:

    @bob h:
    CJ Roberts, and the rest of the “Gang of Five,” will do whatever corporations ASK/TELL THEM TO DO!

    It’s a simple as that….

  14. 14
    jeffreyw says:

    Waiting for the latest 2″ rain to soak in enough to begin mowing. Right now drinking coffee and wondering what to fix for breakfast. I need to feed the pups and the cats lest they decide to fix me for breakfast. I should last a long time so that’s good. Might be a bother for the new housekeeper so that is bad. Ah, here comes Annie with Homer. They have the feed me look.

  15. 15
    Judge Crater says:

    I’m expecting some very incisive questioning from Clarence Thomas on all aspects of the law.

  16. 16
    Patricia Kayden says:

    That everyone should have health care is not controversial in Canada or the UK, among other developed countries. Interesting that it’s controversial here.

  17. 17
    cmm says:

    @danielx: nope. The entire lot of them remind me of Greg Stilson vfrom The Dead Zone.

  18. 18
    kay says:

    I just have to whine before I move on.
    While I am glad that they’re covering the legal challenges to the health care law, I wish they had covered the health care law with this level of scrutiny and specificity and attention.
    I don’t think people have any context for this epic battle, because they have no earthly idea what’s in the law, or what’s at stake.
    While I know that it is to some extent the job of political actors and political parties to frame issues and generate one-line summaries, I get that, it HAS to be the job of news media to present basic facts, even when there’s no inherent conflict, as in “presenting the provisions of the PPACA”.
    We had months of coverage of the congressional battle over the health care law (1), and now we’re going to have months of coverage of the legal battle over the health care law (3). What we never got was (2), the content of the health care law.
    No one knows what we’re fighting about.

  19. 19
    Schlemizel says:

    DAYUM! That is huge news! I realize it “only Japan” but seriously that should be getting a lot more attention.
    So, there is no heater in that sub? Because when people drive around MN and its MINUS 34 we turn on the heater and lose the little hats.

    It does make him look all cool and sailory though.

  20. 20
    Raven says:

    @jeffreyw: Wish it would rain here.

  21. 21
    Citizen_X says:

    @Schlemizel: I imagine it’s damn hard to heat a one-man sub in the deep ocean. The heat capacity of water >> that of air, even if it’s -34 F.

  22. 22
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Schlemizel: How much energy/fuel would it take to heat the thing up to 65 degrees? I don’t know the answer, but I would guess that the calculations were made and it was decided that a chilly interior made for a longer/safer trip.

  23. 23
    jeffreyw says:

    My concrete walk and patio guy should be here today. Replacing wooden decks and a poured patio with new concrete. Adding some new walks from the garage to the new installations, will eliminate steps for easy rollerskating to and from.

  24. 24
    Citizen_X says:

    @Raven: Read the Romney bit on the last page. When a woman faced a life- and fetus-threatening pelvic blood clot, Romney told her, “as your bishop, my concern is with the child.” !!!

  25. 25
    R-Jud says:

    @Patricia Kayden: It’s INFURIATING that it’s controversial in America. It’s infrastructure over here in the UK.

    Though I am hearing the “Why should I pay for someone else’s healthcare?” and “There needs to be competition!” tropes over here in the UK with depressing frequency lately. Fucking Tories.

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    What are the odds someone shouts out “You lie!” at some point during the arguments?

  27. 27
    amk says:

    So when is cole gonna fix all the fuckups with his ill-attempted “site rebuild” ? To think that all he had to do was fix the fucking mobile site hijacking the blog…..

  28. 28
    kay says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    It really depends. I think there’s two groups, broadly. Those who have health insurance and access to health care, and are afraid they won’t keep it, think there’s a fixed amount of health care available, so if YOU get some, they get LESS, and then there are those who don’t have health insurance or access to health care available.

    I try to remember that nearly every single voice I’m hearing in media comes from someone who has good health insurance.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    @amk: You should totally ask for a refund!

  31. 31
    amk says:

    @Citizen_X: He broke it. He can fix it.

    I am sure he will reward you for taking up cudgels on his behalf.

  32. 32
    Skepticat says:

    I actually remember a time in which when a case went to the Supreme Court one had the reasonable expectation that actual law, legal precedents, and objective review might factor into the equation.

  33. 33
    Anya says:

    Am I the only one who’s petrified of this decision? In every instant, Roberts’ court sided with corporate interests and made things harder for regular people. I know people hate the usual suspects (Thomas, Alito and Scalia) but Kennedy is worse than all of them because the other three are upfront about their biases and interests.

  34. 34
    elmo says:

    Okay, I swear to FSM that I have never complained or even commented about the site infrastructure, but I do have a question: Is the new rebuild supposed to make all the text centered, instead of left-justified? Because of all the previous glitches, this one is making it damn near impossible to read.

  35. 35
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I’m trying something here because I hate the fact that there are no breaks between paragraphs in comments since the site redesign.
    So if I put a period between paragraphs, that should do the trick, right?

  36. 36
    kay says:


    I’m fatalistic at this point. If it happens, it happens. The one nice thing about the SC is there’s no appeal, so they’re the last word. Ba-boom. Done.

    The state brief has a run-down, a history, of health care reform attempts in the US. It’s pretty amazing. Since FDR. Year after year after year, decade after decade. Truman appears to have believed he would succeed! The buck stopped there, except it didn’t.

    If you’re an optimist, which I am, you could look at it differently. You could look at it that they’ve been chipping away at uninsured populations, with Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP being the big advances, where large chunks of certain groups gained access. If you take “the possible universe of the uninsured” and then start subtracting: Medicare, then Medicaid then SCHIP, it looks a little better, as far as progress.

    The advances in covering children could be called a success, with Medicaid and then SCHIP plus preventive public health programs (immunizations, WIC, Healthy Babies, public school programs for sight and hearing testing) covering large groups of children. I don’t know where the hell we’d be if we hadn’t made advances with children. A lot sicker, as adults, I’d wager.

  37. 37
    handsmile says:


    I appreciate your resourceful “patch” on what is among the most reader-unfriendly aspects of this redesign debacle.


    Numbering comments (to specify replies) was another useful feature now abandoned by “progress” as well.

  38. 38
    Some Loser says:

    @kay: Do you think Universal Healthcare can become impossible to achieve if the judges rule wrong?

  39. 39

    @concarroll, via Klein’s WaPo joint:

    if Court strikes down Ocare, Romney has easy line to separate himself from Obama: “My law is constitutional. Yours was not.

    Looks good to me. Put me down for 5-4 to strike. The modern GOP is about nothing except winning elections.

  40. 40
    Some Loser says:

    Maybe when the rebuild is finished the site will be actually better. Maybe I am just being optimistic.

  41. 41
    PeakVT says:

    @elmo: try clearing your cache. I had centered text for a few minutes yesterday, but it’s been normal since then.

    ETA: Testing


  42. 42
    PeakVT says:

    @PeakVT: Extra line breaks are being stripped for some reason.

    If this annoys anyone, then you can either try my style for the site or write a basic one that adds the following:
    .commentlist .ctext p { padding-bottom: 5px !important; }

  43. 43
    Face says:

    Everything is centered, which is killing me. And only some comments are seperated by dotted lines, while others are not. Weird.

  44. 44
    handsmile says:

    If the outcome of the 2012 presidential election really does hinge on the Court’s ACA ruling, I wonder how Anthony Kennedy must feel about being the most important person in America.

    Like Anya above, I too am “petrified” at times about what havoc this conservative court might unleash. From the many preview accounts I have read in the past two weeks, I think (most of the time) that the Supremes will punt their decision, ruling that not enough aspects of the legislation have been put into effect to permit a more robust and comprehensive review. At least, that’s what I’m whistlin’.

  45. 45
    quannlace says:

    But……..it’s not as if the Supreme’s are gonna render their decision at the close of day on Wednesday. More like June before anybody hears anything. And even then they could decide to shelve the whole decision thingie till the rest of the ACA becomes law. So I don’t get all the breathless excitement, unless your a oral arguments junkie.

  46. 46
    kay says:

    @Some Loser:

    I don’t really know what you mean by “universal healthcare”. I think there’s two distinct issues, health care and health insurance. One is the service and one is the mechanism to pay for the service.
    I like this comparison, although it’s rough, and I can’t get into too much detail or we’d be here all day.
    Compare Vermont and Massachusetts. Vermont had a non-profit primary care infrastructure in place (of a sort) because they went big into community health centers. They THEN could go to a universal health insurance model (and the Vermont law includes a kind of price control on medical care, eventually) where Massachusetts went the other way. They sought to cover everyone with health insurance, before addressing the COST of health care.
    At the end of the health care debate, I ended up thinking I’d go the “Vermont route”, nationally. I’d go to actual health care delivery FIRST, at the primary care level, bring down the cost and increase access to that, before going to the next level, which is worrying about paying for, and access to, more complicated and expensive health care.
    I would have put everything into community health centers, get everyone a guarantee of that basic level of care, then go from there. I used a community health center for pregnancy care once, and it’s a good fit for me, I thought it was great “health care” but it’s not what we’re used to w/the health insurance model, and I think Americans (of a certain class and income) are used to a private for-profit health care delivery model. In other words, I think a lot of people who have access to the current health care system would balk or object to my “community health care center” model, because it would be perceived as something for “poor people”.
    But it would have been wildly controversial and never get thru Congress, so I’d have to do it by executive decree, and be a one-term President :)

  47. 47
    kay says:

    @Some Loser:

    In other words, I think I would split up “health care” rather than splitting up groups of people who get or don’t get health care.
    What’s the basic level of health care? Primary care. I’d make that universally available and affordable and THEN worry about the next level.

  48. 48

    Gonna go with Rosen here. The journalistic world as a whole doesn’t want to explain what the ACA does. If a law has major effects on people’s lives, that really distracts from the horse race.

  49. 49
    Ben Franklin says:


    Has it only been 1 year?

    It’s amazing the Japanese people are refusing to restart the nukes which ‘pass inspection. Generally, they have a hive mentality toward the good of the many versus the good of the one, but they are clearly tired of being lied to.’

  50. 50
    Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor says:

    In a legal system ruled by logic and reason, with a non-politicized SCOTUS, ACA would be upheld.

    Since I’ve seen no evidence that either of these two conditions currently holds, I’m still bracing myself for ACA to be repealed. Or at least eviscerated to the point of uselessness.

    The GOP didn’t spend four decades (and all that cash) packing the court with ideologues for nothin’.

  51. 51
    Kay says:


    Well, I know that NOW.

    I (think) I wrote here when this thing started that we’d get great coverage, because it was health care, and there were so many stories, etc.

    I am really a godamned third grader.

  52. 52

    The conservative majority will reverse some part of the law, bet on it. Maybe they’ll kill the minimum policy standards, but more likely they’ll reverse the loss ratio provisions. After all, what’s a good conservative who won’t stand up for an insurance company’s right to loot and pillage its customers’ bank accounts. Assuming the banks didn’t get there first, of course…

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